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DEAR BRUCE: When the recession hit I lost my job. Because I was about to lose my house, my father paid it off for me. I was making monthly payments when I could afford to with the understanding that if he were to pass away before I was to pay off the debt to him, the house would come back to me. Well he recently passed away, now I need to find out how I can get the deed. Can you please guide me in the right direction? — James, via email

DEAR JAMES: There are a few details that I would need to know in order to answer your question correctly. You didn’t mention who was holding the deed to the house. When your father passed away, was his will up to date, giving the house back to you upon his death? Do you have any siblings? If you do have any siblings out there, what is going to be their take on you getting your house back?

If there is nothing in your father’s will regarding your matter, did you and your father have anything in writing between the two of you? I can’t give you an accurate answer without knowing the details. I would advise you to seek the help of an attorney to help get all of your father’s affairs sorted out.

DEAR BRUCE: Is the annual gift tax $12,000 or $13,000? I keep hearing different answers from different people. Can you please give me the correct answer? Thank you in advance. — G.L., via email

DEAR G.L.: The correct answer is $13,000. You may give $13,000 to anyone whom you wish without any tax implications. The $13,000 is to be given to an individual only once in a period of a year without any consequences.

Interested in buying or selling a house? Let Bruce Williams’ House Smart be your guide. Price: $14.95, plus shipping and handling. Call 800-337-2346.

Send your questions to: Smart Money, P.O. Box 2095, Elfers, FL 34680. E-mail to: bruce@brucewilliams.com. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.